6 Mindsets of a Montessori Home by Ted Conway of Fred & Ted and Company.
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Many parents believe that Montessori is defined by its materials. We think of Montessori and we think of the Brown Stairs, the Pink Tower, the Hundred Cube, however, Montessori is about how we do something not what we use to do it. The materials are important but without the correct mentality, they are severely limited.
We assume that Montessori at home is complicated and expensive, preparing the environment is too difficult, there’s no time, and we don’t have enough storage. I frequently come across people obsessed with the materials of Montessori and regularly read questions in Montessori Facebook groups asking what item to give infants and children so that a family can say they are ‘doing Montessori’ but it is far more beneficial to be ‘thinking Montessori’.
A Montessori home starts with a mindset, not with materials, it grows with time, not with toys and it flourishes with space and not with stuff.
To follow Montessori we must follow the child. Don’t ever compare children to one another! Observe not only the interests of our child but also their preferred pace of work. Step back from your child and forget about education standards, percentiles and the kid next door. Where are your child’s passions? What motivates them? What captivates them? That’s where they will grow! It’s your job to feed those curiosities. Also, ask yourself are they kind, do they share, can they make others laugh? These are much more important than the timeline of their growth.
Complete only the parts of a task that a child cannot accomplish without your help e.g. maybe when tying laces they can cross them over each other for you to make the knot, maybe you can shampoo and they can rinse. Every so often stop and assess your child’s abilities and ask if they can take a further step. Occasionally a child will shy away from doing a task themselves because they feel that you can do it better/faster or because they want to feel cared for, identify any barriers to their independence and try to meet in a way and at a time that doesn’t impinge on their autonomy. Oh and leave yourself enough time! This is sllllllowww!
Go bird watching, beetle hunting, berry picking, flower spotting, star gazing, try a listening walk, play eye spy, build a fort, make a stereognostic bag, draw in the dirt, compare native flowers with photos of some from abroad, sponsor a birdhouse in your local park. Go anywhere but a fiberglass playground!
Model good use of time, be punctual, set aside time for work and relaxing, try not to spend spare minutes scrolling on your phone. Repair broken toys, don’t rush to replace those that can’t be fixed, tidy away one activity before moving to a new one. This simple change will cultivate a spirit of gratitude and combat the growing attitude of waste.
When talking to a child always get down on their level, allow your child to lead. Provide enough silence for a child to talk, sitting on the floor playing quietly or joining a child at their coloring table is often enough to invite meaningful conversation. Thinking time is important too, children think at half the speed of adults, don’t assume a pause means they haven’t understood. Try to avoid asking children questions that can be answered with one word. Instead of “Who won the game today?” ask “How did they win?” or “What was your best moment on the field?”
You don’t need to invest in art, you can print it from online, buy postcards at museums, borrow books from the library. You might rotate your artwork on a seasonal or ‘Artist of the Month’ basis. Identify what your child gravitates towards and provide them with appropriate resources; paints, chalks, clay, brushes, droppers, fabric. Visit galleries, meet local artists, talk about art wherever you find it, especially talk about your child’s art.
If we make Montessori solely about the materials then we have missed the point, Maria Montessori reached her final philosophy on education through her attempts to reduce resources and bring education to everyone regardless of their financial situation.
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Hi, I’m Ted! Wife to Fred, Montessori Mom to Alfie, a former teacher and children’s librarian. I blog about parenting, Montessori, and life on the edge of nowhere at Fred Ted and Company.
To read more about having a Montessori home and easy ways to get started click here.
Hi. Great read. Thank you for posting. As a formally train Montessori teacher I feel obligated to point out one cardinal mistake in your essay -you referred to a Thousand Cube -there are one thousand units on this cube – and mistakenly called it a Hundred Cube.
I’m new to Montessori, my 3 yo has just started a montessori school and my son and I love it and the principles. I have tried to ‘purge’ some of the toys that do not fit in with the principles and are not related to his development all has gone well so far, but I’m anxious about Christmas and wondering how I can keep the toys to a minimum and prevent him from getting overwhelmed and over stimulated with all the gifts I’m sure he will be recieving . I’ve been told children under 6 really shouldn’t have electronics or more than a handful of toys available to them at once, is there any advice you can give ? I know if I take the new toys away or don’t let him have them I will be dealing with a tantrum and I also want to respect and follow my child’s desires so I’m not sure how to deal with that? Thank you
I am so glad you are loving Montessori! I suggest rotating some of the Christmas toys out with other toys. If you have 5-10 materials out at a time you can rotate some of those out with the new gifts. Leaving some Montessori materials and some non-Montessori materials (if you want to use the non-Montessori materials). Then in a few weeks, you can rotate them out again. If you find your child is not particularly attached to any of the new non-Montessori materials maybe you could just not rotate them back in. This way he gets to be able to play with the new toys for a bit but they won’t be out forever. Hopefully, this helps! You may also be interested in reading this post about how to deal with unwanted gifts.
Best of luck hun!
I have never heard of Montessori or minimalism before. I find your perspectives very inspiring and educational. As a toddler mom I feel assured to know that the methods I use are very in line with these types of principles. I just never knew they had a name.
dialogue is important..I completely agree with you
Very inspiring! Thank you!
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Loved coming across this article. We have long been a montessori family and little reminders like this are so helpful. I have found that we go through phases of growth and their ‘growing pains’. Discovering new ways to communicate, access projects, and provide space that is needed. I am highlighting some of this article and putting on fridge to help me and my husband remember our focus. Peace.